Thursday, September 30, 2004

This Anandamela pujo barshiki has a graphic novel version of Napoleaner Chithi from Satyajit Ray’s popular Feluda series. The art is by Abhijit Chattopadhyay, who has done a decent job. For someone who has grown up on Ray’s pencil and ink version of Feluda, aka Prodosh Mitter, the latest avatar may seem a tad too colourful and slightly less aquiline. (For that matter, the latest version of DC Comics’ Superman seems much less friendly and a lot temperamental when compared to the original.) On the whole, I found the artwork to be very good. The best thing about it is the sketches of different Calcutta landmarks in the background. The side view of St Paul’s Cathedral, Hobby Centre (one of the favourite spots of my childhood, with its model airplanes, video game and ice-cream parlours and toy guns), Park Street-Free School Street crossing made me nostalgic. The difficulty of interpreting Ray’s version of a detective series set in the Calcutta of the Eighties becomes apparent when you start noticing the details: One of the characters is seen using a cellphone, even though Feluda still smokes his trademark filterless Charminar (a Wills Navy Cut would have been more appropriate!). Also, the buggy carrying Feluda, Jatayu and Topshe (his sidekick and cousin) at the Maidan is seen following a car, which looks too much like some of the luxury sedans that have invaded the Indian market recently.
The comic series is another gem of an idea from Ananda Publishers, which owns the rights for the books. A part of the Anand Bazar Patrika media house, Ananda’s move is timely, especially when the market has been flooded with Feluda anthologies and bookshelves are having to yield space to Harry Potters, game CDs and such like.
In fact, it’s thanks to the efforts of Ananda Publishers that the only Indian language that Tintin is available in is Bengali. Also, it was only in the pages of Anandamela that my generation found ‘Indian’ comic characters like Hada and Bhonda and Batul the Great. Come to think of it, except Amar Chitra Katha and Indrajal Comics’ Bahadur, there were hardly any ‘Indian’ comics around at that time. A shame really, considering the fact that we have such a rich tradition of folklore. Anyway, thanks to the Phantoms, Tintins, Batmans and Tarzans (I hated Archie! In fact, funnily enough, I took quite a prudish view of Archie and his two-timing and smooching and his bikini babes. It’s pretty embarrassing to admit, but I guess it was a sign of the times.) I had enough to read in my childhood.
However, nowadays, I find the lack of quality English graphic novels frustrating. Barring Art Spiegelman’s Maus and the recent Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (neither of which I have read), I know of few other such works. Though Corridors by Sarnath Banerjee (my senior from school) was like a breath of fresh air. A search of the Net sometimes turns up something good, but reading it on a computer terminal gets tedious after some time.
The French, on the other hand, seem to have a very rich tradition of writing graphic novels. In fact, the French Information Centre has a mouth-watering collection of adult comics. But, I am yet to get beyond the ouis and the parlez vous and have to content myself with admiring the artwork.
For the time being, I guess I’ll have to make do with Feluda.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Dan Brown phenomenon continues to amaze. What is it that has made The Da Vinci Code so universally popular? Is it because it is based on the search for the Holy Grail? Or, have readers found the conspiracy theory angle so appealing? Maybe, Brown has managed to find his readers’ pulse and the formula to send it racing. But, how does it explain the fact that his earlier book Angels and Demons had to piggyback on the popularity of his latest offering? Of course, the danger here is that it may lead to another John Grisham-style assembly line. Another explanation may be that the average reader (the author of this blog included) is a sucker for such ‘A-Dummy’s-Guide-to-French-Art’ kind of writing. It’s kind of like getting a free ticket to a Royal Philharmonic Orchestra concert — a classy night out sans the effort of going through the academic rigour of telling a harpsichord from a Hawaiian guitar. It’s the same phenomenon that had made Stephen Hawking’s super-dense A Brief History of Time such a bestseller. (Compared to Hawking’s rocket science, Brown’s is a paper plane exercise). Despite or because of this, the book has managed to soar right up to the top of numerous bestsellers’ lists and stay there. Brown’s publishers Doubleday have already sold 12 million copies. In fact, during two recent visits to Connaught Place, I had noticed people buying the Code at the roadside bookstalls. In fact, I even heard one of the bookwallahs give a rough outline of the plot to this lady, who had heard of the book and wanted to find out what the big hoo-ha was all about. She ended up buying both Code and Demons.
Last Sunday, I think for the first time in many weeks I noticed Code pushed to second position by Patricia Cornwell’s Trace on the NYT bestsellers’ list. And today, the Hindustan Times informed me that Brown has been accused of plagiarism. “Authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, who wrote the The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail and Lewis Perdue, the author of The Da Vinci Legacy, say that Brown borrowed heavily from their works and instead of doing his own research he just copied the research that had already been done by them.”
All I can say is that this bit of controversy will not be too unwelcome for Brown and the Code may just go on, as my friend Jai has pointed out in his blog, to perhaps (God forbid!) rival the Bible in popularity.

P.S. The blog would like to note the passing away of one of India’s major English novelists Mulk Raj Anand.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

I just can’t get over that ‘Bloodshed in Belsan’ headline in the Times of India. Given the copywriter’s instinct that drives every smart-ass sub to show off his creative instincts in 48 pts/Times New Roman/bold, I couldn’t but help think of the lengths they can go to. A few examples:
Lenardo DiCaprio dies in a freak accident: DiCaprio Decapitated
President Goerge W Bush is killed by terrorists: Bush ends in Am-bush (pretty bad, even by my standards)
Dick Cheney dies (of natural causes): Dick kicks the bucket
Arnold Schwarzenneger dies (natural death): Terminated: No comebacks for Arnold
Hugh Hefner is on his deathbed: Playboy nears endgame
Osama bin Laden is killed in an US missile attack: Tomahawaks hit home, send Laden to heavenly abode
Pamela Anderson bursts an artery while trying to film a particularly difficult posture with Kid Rock: Wham, bam…Adieu Pam
(I agree that I am stretching it a bit. So, I will stop here. But, please feel free to send in your smart-ass suggestions. I promise to post the best ones!)

Monday, September 06, 2004

I am at a loss to describe the sense of outrage that I feel over the tragedy in Beslan. But I am equally appalled by the insensitivity of people. (No, I’m not talking about terrorists who shoot at children and deprive them of water and food for days.) I am talking about ‘responsible’ journalists like those employed by the Times of India, who feel the need to package a tragedy of this scale by using alliterative headlines like ‘Bloodbath in Belsan’.
I can just hope and pray that a horrific incident will lead to some soul-searching among Muslims worldwide. This extremist scum should be isolated, exposed and asphyxiated of funds (which comes in the bagfuls from the stupid Arabian emirates). I know it is easier said than done, but if the general mood is any indicator it may happen sooner than later.

Sample these:
“Muslims worldwide are the main perpetrators of terrorism, a humiliating and painful truth that must be acknowledged,” Abdulrahman al-Rashed, general manger of Al-Arabiya Television wrote in his daily column published in the pan-Arab, Ashara Al-Awsat newspaper.

“The horrifying images of dead and wounded Russian students showed Muslims as monsters who are fed by the blood of children and the pain of their families,” Ahmed Bahgat, an Egyptian Islamist, wrote in his column in Egypt’s’ leading pro-government newspaper, Al-Ahram.

“The mobilisation of moderate Muslims, which began in France after the kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq, has spread to Italy, Britain and Germany -- the other European countries with large Muslim populations.
"Isolate Fanatics to Achieve a More Just and Safer Country" was the title of a manifesto published in one of Italy's leading newspapers this week and signed by some 30 Italian Muslims.
In France, the abduction of two French journalists by the Islamic army in Iraq turned into a defining moment for the country's 5 million-strong Muslim community, Europe's largest. The militants' demand that France revoke its recent ban on Muslim headscarves in state schools had all the elements needed for serious tension between Paris and its Muslims. Instead, the fractious French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) spoke out in one voice to denounce the kidnappers and reject their bid to inflame the headscarf issue.
Leaders of Germany's some 3.3 million Muslims have also tried to distance the community from extremism. "These people who claim to be acting in the name of Islam damage the religion itself and Muslims, and therefore we must condemn their acts and of course distance ourselves from them,” said Ali Kizilkaya, Chairman of the Islam Council of Germany.” (Reuters, Sept 3)

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